Pro-Immigrant March Set For Labor Day

Araceli Esparza, Pasadene Star News, August 16, 2006

The head of one of the main Latino organizations behind last spring’s massive pro-illegal immigrant marches said Tuesday activists are planning a similar large-scale demonstration on Labor Day.

Nativo Lopez, director of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, a pro-immigrant group, said he expects at least 20,000 people to turn out for a Sept. 4 march to be held in Wilmington, near the ports of Long Beach. That march could kick off a series of demonstrations lasting through the month of September, Lopez said.

And for the first time, pro-immigrant activists will mesh their cause with the labor movement, Lopez added.

Teamsters, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and other union members will join pro-illegal immigrant activists and their supporters at the Sept. 4 event, Lopez said.

The aim, he added, is to show a “united refutation” of immigration reform proposals that would hurt the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living here.

“For the first time, this will be the immigrant rights’ Labor Day with labor workers,” Lopez said. “This will be a show of unity between the labor movement and the immigrant rights movement for fair immigration legislation.”

Union officials are attempting to organize certain categories of employees who work at the ports in Long Beach. Last week, however, the nation’s largest unions agreed to help organize day laborers, many of whom are here illegally.

The nexus of organized labor and the illegal immigrant work force could create a powerful combination that would benefit both groups, said Randy Ertll, executive director of El Centro de Accion Social in Pasadena.

Lopez said the partnership solidified during last week’s Immigrant Strategy Convention held in Chicago and involving dozens of pro-immigrant groups and union officials—more than 400 organizations from 40 states.

From that gathering, organizers formed a new coalition, the National Alliance for Immigrant Rights, he said.

That coalition now is organizing pro-immigrant/pro-labor marches in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Dallas, New York and other large cities, according to Lopez.

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Next month could see other mass demonstrations by pro-immigrant organizers, as September is Hispanic Heritage Month and is also when many Latin American countries celebrate independence days, Lopez noted.

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The momentum of one group of immigration demonstrators was picking up Tuesday in a park at Capitol Avenue and Broad Street in Hartford when a trio of protesters from the other side showed up carrying “Save the American Worker” posters.

Barbara Keidel of Watertown, Tom Manuel of Bethel and Pat Basile of Danbury immediately stood out among the crowd of about 60 people, who were carrying placards with slogans such as “No Human Being is Illegal” and “Queers Say No to Border Goons.”

“Bigots go home,” 24-year-old James Fiorentino, a student from Northampton, Mass., shouted at the new arrivals.

“We’re not bigots,” Keidel responded. “I have a right to speak. Nobody has the right to call me names. Where is that young man? Show your face.”

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The two sides of the ongoing national debate over immigration faced off around the state Capitol Tuesday.

The 21st Century Paul Revere Riders, a group opposed to illegal immigration and in favor of stiffer laws and tougher enforcement, has been traveling around the country on motorcycles this summer. They stopped in Hartford Tuesday.

They were met by a group of counter-protesters, which included representatives from 16 organizations. When Manuel, Basile and Keidel realized that the anti-illegal immigration group they came to support was rallying at the Capitol, they headed that way.

At the Capitol, the members of the riders, four men and women who traveled here via motorcycle, and their 15 supporters, expressed gratitude to the Capitol police for keeping the two groups apart.

“We expected to stand quietly,” Keidel said. “We weren’t expecting verbal abuse.”

{snip}

Cindy Roddenberry of South Carolina, one of the motorcyclists who had traveled from Denver to Connecticut, said the strategy of the counter-demonstrators won’t stop the anti-illegal immigration movement.

A nurse by profession, Roddenberry said that illegal immigrants are crippling the country’s health care system, and illegal immigrants are spreading diseases. “We need to slow [illegal immigration] down,” and “enforce the laws we have. . . I’m not a racist. The Paul Revere riders are for legal immigration.”

But the counter-protesters said Roddenberry and those like her misstate the facts about immigration.

“They say we are here to take their jobs; that’s not true,” said Juan Hernandez, a janitor from Manchester.

Mary Sanders of Hartford said she came to protest the anti-immigration rally because “all of our parents were immigrants. Only the African Americans’ community can say they came here against their will. All we ask for is fair treatment for all people.”

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